Opinion editor’s note: The Star Tribune Editorial Board operates separately from the newsroom, and no news editors or reporters were involved in the endorsement process.
When he sought the Star Tribune Editorial Board’s endorsement in his first bid for Congress in 2018, Republican Pete Stauber’s public service background included a career as a Duluth police officer and stints on the St. Louis County Board and Hermantown City Council.
Stauber impressed the board as a quick study who wouldn’t hesitate to work with Democrats on common-ground issues faced by residents of Minnesota’s sprawling Eighth Congressional District. “We don’t need a red playbook or a blue playbook,” he told the board two years ago.
Now seeking a second term against Democrat Quinn Nystrom and Judith Schwartzbacker of the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party, Stauber can point to a freshman record that includes some notable accomplishments and a record of working with Democratic colleagues.
Although Nystrom has done admirable work on insulin affordability and other health care issues, the Editorial Board believes Stauber has earned a second term representing a district that stretches from the state’s border with Canada to Isanti and Chisago counties just north of the Twin Cities metro area.
This wasn’t an easy call. Stauber continues to back the Twin Metals mining project on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA). The Editorial Board has deemed the Chilean-owned copper-nickel mine too risky — in part because of a broken regulatory process. Nystrom also opposes the project, arguing that the permitting process has not been transparent.
Ideally, on a host of issues Stauber would have shown more independence from President Donald Trump, especially on his botched handling of the pandemic. But it’s worth noting that Trump won the Eighth District by 15 points in 2016 and that some, although not all, of his administration’s economic policies have brought jobs back to areas in the district starved for economic development.
Editorial Board endorsements are rarely determined by single issues, and Stauber’s loyalty to Trump has not been blind. For example, the congressman crossed party lines as one of just eight Republicans who voted for a resolution condemning the administration’s legal efforts to strike down the Affordable Care Act.
As the father of a child with special needs and two pre-existing conditions, Stauber speaks passionately about the need for affordable health care benefits for all Americans. He told the Editorial Board that he doesn’t favor Medicare for All but acknowledges that the ACA is “the law of the land today.” If the law is replaced, Stauber emphasizes, Americans must have access to high-quality health care.
Stauber also deserves credit for his work with Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., on a bill to address inadequate federal funding for special education. And he’s joined Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., on the House Problem Solvers Caucus, whose 50 members from both parties try to find areas of agreement on critical issues.
Nystrom, 34, is a Crow Wing County native and a former Baxter City Council member with a personal interest in health care that took root after her younger brother was diagnosed with diabetes when she was in fifth grade. Nystrom went door-to-door raising money for diabetes research and advocacy. A few years later, she was also diagnosed with the disease.
As a teen, Nystrom was chosen by the American Diabetes Association to be the organization’s national youth advocate, and she traveled the country to raise awareness of diabetes. She’s lobbied Congress and state legislatures to cut the cost of insulin and other lifesaving drugs. The Editorial Board became familiar with Nystrom while she lobbied the Minnesota Legislature as a strong advocate for the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act, and we hope she continues her public service work and seeks elected office again.
Stauber, 54, won the seat in 2018 when Democrat Rick Nolan decided not to run for re-election, becoming only the second Republican to represent the Eighth in 70 years. He’s earned another opportunity to represent the district using a playbook that’s neither all red nor all blue.